CHESS MESS

In the Tor.com excerpt on Friday, “Game Over,” readers learned that once upon a time Scientific American warned kids against playing chess, calling it “a mere amusement of a very inferior character which robs the mind of valuable time that might be devoted to nobler acquirements.” Being a “mere” science mag, the editors were limited in what they could do about it, recommending kids in the 1800s partake in “out-door exercises” instead of “mental gladiatorship”. But for such a cerebral game, chess can stir some deep emotions from those in power – leading to outright bans over the years. Here’s a partial list of all the governments and organizations who have outlawed chess since Scientific American‘s lament:

Late 1950s

Is there something about scientists and chess that just don’t mix? Russians in Antarctica had to stick with checkers following the murder of a Soviet scientist at a research station there. His colleague split him open with an ax after losing a game of chess (of course the cold, isolated environment of Antarctica could have contributed to the crime – or vodka).

Mid-1960s

During China’s Cultural Revolution, chess was considered as bad as capitalism. Ten years later, the Chinese were sending players to international chess competitions!

1974

The World Chess Federation (best known as FIDE, from its French acronym for the Federation Internationale des Echecs) decided to do some banning of their own – barring South African and Rhodesia from certain FIDE events because of the apartheid practices of their governments (in 1977 South Africa gets a full ban from FIDE for 15 more years).

1979

Chess – actually, games in general – have been looked on with suspicion by Islam for centuries. Games can lead to gambling, which is prohibited by Islam; and like many religions, amusements like chess are considered to be time-wasters (time better spent praying). After the 1979 Iranian revolution, the Islamic clergy who take control outlaw chess from public places. But chess-lovers continue, going underground during the near decade-long ban. These days, the country’s chess federation has one of the most professional coaching centers in the Middle East and kids there recently won three world titles in the under-10 and under-12 chess categories.

1993

A confrontation between chess players and cops lead to American River College’s ban on the game in their campus library and cafeteria. Campus police are called into action after “disruptive behavior” is reported. When the game-gang at the California college refused to stop, authorities confiscated their board and their pieces.

1994-2001

Taliban edicts proclaim chess off-limits in Afghanistan; imprisonment or beatings can result from playing the game.

1996

Chess was but one of many non-academic clubs banned from Salt Lake City high schools. The game wasn’t the problem – an across-the-board ban was enacted to prevent teens from organizing a separate club for gay students.

2001

Rowdy chess spectators cause the game to be banned at the Minneapolis Public Library.

2002

For similar reasons, the game was banned from malls in Chicago’s Hyde Park.

2010

Game-bangers cause a chess ban in Emercon Playground, New York City; seven adult chess players receive summonses from police later that year.

2013

Games of chance (chess, dice, backgammon, etc.) are still prohibited from entering the country of Saudi Arabia – so don’t pack a chess set if you plan to travel there!

SKATER KILLED FOR GRAFFITI

Israel Hernandez-Llach was an acclaimed graffiti artist and an avid skateboarder who, according to his sister, “wanted to change the world somehow through art.”

The reason why the word was is used to describe the 18-year-old is because Hernandez is now dead, following a confrontation with Miami Beach police.

Cop skater

When cops spotted the artist tagging a defunct McDonald’s early in the morning, “more than half a dozen” officers gave chase: “During the foot pursuit, the subject encountered officers face to face…and ignored officers’ commands to stop,” MBPD Chief Raymond Martinez explained in a public statement on the killing. “In order to affect his arrest, an officer deployed his conducted electrical weapon.” Or, put another way: he shot the kid point blank in the chest with a Taser. After being electro-shocked, Hernandez began to show “signs of medical distress,” Chief Martinez continued. Emergency responders arrived and rushed the teen to Mount Sinai Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

“The City of Miami Beach would like to extend their condolences to the family of Israel Hernandez,” Chief Martinez concluded.

Two of Hernandez’s friends, who were acting as lookouts for him as he spray painted the abandoned building, claim they witnessed the whole encounter with police, and that officers “shoved Hernandez against a wall, then high-fived” each other as the teen lay motionless after being Tasered. “He was on the ground and the cops were making jokes,” 19-year-old Thiago Souza told The Miami Herald.

Best friend, Rafael Lynch, who used to hang out at local skateboarding shops with his pal, talked of Hernandez’s “passion for skating and art…. He taught me a lot. I still have his hat and his board. They still smell like him. It’s crazy.”

Hernandez “had recently launched his own line of skateboards, and had also shown his work in local galleries,” reports the Herald.

According to Amnesty International, between 2001 and 2008, 351 people in the United States died after being shocked by police Tasers. The blog Electric Village has documented another 191 Taser-related deaths in America from 2009-2013. That means the total of documented Taser-related deaths in the US are a shocking  542 in 12 years!